The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 13 million workers in the United States may be exposed to chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin, putting them at risk for occupational skin diseases. While workplaces normally focus on preventing damage that can be caused by inhalation of potentially hazardous substances, not nearly as much as done to prevent people from skin exposure.
The second most common type of workplace disease is occupational skin disease, and these conditions can present themselves in a variety of ways, including skin cancer and skin infection as well as allergic and irritant contact dermatitis. Along with workers in a number of other industries, individuals with jobs in food service, health care, printing and construction are at risk.
Chemical agents, physical agents, biological agents and physical trauma are the most common causes of occupational skin disease. The leading cause is chemical agents, which are divided into primary irritants and sensitizers. Primary irritants act directly on the skin. However, with sensitizers, workers are not always aware that they are being exposed to a potentially hazardous material, and it may take repeated exposure for someone’s skin to react to it.
Someone who suffers a workplace injury, whether it is an obvious physical trauma, repetitive stress injury or an occupational skin disease, usually has the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation can cover lost wages, medical care and a variety of other expenses related to harm suffered on the job. A lawyer can explain how the process of applying for these benefits works and can assist a client throughout the appeals process if the claim has been denied or disputed.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Skin Exposures & Effects“, December 28, 2014